“Not good enough.”
Monday morning, 7 September 2015
GM: The days drag by.
Em can’t even change the TV station on his own. He remains completely dependent upon a rotating shift of impersonal caregivers to hand-feed him his food, brush his teeth, sponge-bath his useless body, and wipe toilet paper along his ass. The closest he comes to interaction with them is when he picks up his first nurse’s name as Pamela Ardoin. Dr. Brown checks in every so often, cheerfully remarking that Em’s vitals are improving nicely. For whatever that may be worth.
It’s a bone-deep weariness of the spirit as well as the flesh. It weighs him down as much as the absent legs that confine his helpless body. Em overhears that he was not missing both his legs when he arrived in Tulane Medical Center, but that his left one was amputated. He had already lost his left foot, much of the flesh around his calf, and all of the bone up to his ankle. What was left of the leg was infected and had to come off. Dr. Brown reminds him with a smile that he’s very lucky to be alive.
He’s on antibiotics for a lot of things, including the treatment of several STDs. His head still hurts whenever he tries to recall past the black fog where Cash Money smashed a bottle over his head. The police will interview him about those events, he’s told, now that he’s being moved outside of ICU.
Thursday morning, 10 September 2015
GM: The police detective is an older man, with closely cropped irony gray hair that might’ve once been black. He’s got a hard nose, hard jawline, and harder eyes. His skin is worn and leathery like a well-used pair of work gloves, and pulled taut against gaunt cheekbones. He’s still a big man, maybe an inch or two over Em’s height, and wears a scuffed, faded gray trench coat over a plain shirt of the same color. A police badge on a cord dangles around his neck in place of a tie. He doesn’t bother flashing it as he pulls up a chair by Emmett’s bed and grunts, “Det. Gettis. Let’s hear it.”
Emmett: “I don’t remember much of what happened. I’m sorry.” Emmett’s voice has the all the emotion of a tombstone.
GM: The detective’s answer has all the tenderness of one.
“Not good enough.”
It’s even worse having his back up against the wall when he has no legs to run with. Then it’s just him, the wall, and whatever’s shoved him there.
Em doesn’t like this. He’s gotten into enough trouble with NOPD. There has to be a way out.
Wednesday evening, 9 September 2015
Emmett: Em lifts his head during the daily… wiping.
GM: His nurse grunts.
Emmett: “Who do I talk to to make a phone call?”
GM: His nurse grunts again. Another streak of cotton-texture fire scorches Em’s ass, though after several days of ‘care’ it stings more than it burns now.
“Me. Because you’re in no shape to make one.”
Emmett: Em eyes the woman. “So can you? Make a call? I need to talk through the phone myself.”
GM: The nurse gives him an irritated look. “Cellphones aren’t allowed in ICU. I’d have to wheel you out to use one of ours.”
Emmett: “Could you, please?” Em arches an eyebrow. “I know it’s a pain in the ass. Do you know Dr. Merinelli?”
GM: Emmett’s regards him with that same flat, bulldog-jowled stare he’s come to know her by so well for the past few days.
Emmett: “I’m her baby brother. Woman practically raised me.”
That first part is even true. Em looks at her as levelly as he can manage from his current position.
“She’d be very grateful. And she’s a generous person. Ask her friends on the board. Or on the faculty of Tulane’s med school. You hear what I’m saying?”
GM: The nurse grunts again as she wipes another toilet paper strip along Em’s ass, but her movements feel slower. Even a bit less painful.
Emmett: “She once asked a waitress if there was a cap on tips.”
GM: “You’re getting moved out of ICU,” Em’s nurse declares with another grunt. “If you’re well enough to get wheeled out of here, you don’t need to stay in here.”
Emmett: “As long as I get to the phone on the way, you can stick me in a closet.”
GM: Several minutes later, Em’s sitting in a wheelchair while his nurse dials number on a landline. She holds the phone to his ear. Several rings sound before another middle-aged woman greets him with a flat, “Bert Villars, attorney at law. How can I help you?”
Emmett: “Hello, Paloma—it’s your secret admirer. I’m sorry I’m not there to see you in person.” The words echo strangely off his voice—lines delivered without passion. “Put me through to Bert, please.”
GM: “It’s you,” Paloma remarks in an equally cheerful tone. The secretary’s voice disappears.
Shortly later, Em hears a greasy “Hello, Emmett,” drip from the phone’s receiver.
His nurse sighs and lifts it off from its temporary resting place on Em’s shoulder and holds it to his mouth.
“Bud’s available to meet tomorrow evening,” Villars continues.
Emmett: “What? Oh. There’s, um. Been a development.”
GM: Emmett can all but see the mostly-blind lawyer’s yellow-toothed grin.
“Isn’t there always.”
Emmett: “How soon can you get to Tulane Medical?”
GM: Emmett can picture the yellowy grin spreading like a cobra’s flared hood.
“As fast as a paid legal bill.”
Emmett: “I need counsel. Payout might be a few days away, but I only need a few hours’ investment. I’ll pay you double for the time. I have your attention?”
A gamble. But when you’re about to hang, Em figures, asking for more rope can’t hurt.
GM: And Cash Money, true to his name, worships no higher god than Mammon, Em recalls his attorney telling him earlier.
Bert Villars is evidently a fellow disciple.
“Things sound like they’re starting to heat up,” the grimebag lawyer grins. “All right, I’ll be over soon. Don’t burn yourself too badly for me to put out the fire.”
Emmett: The call ended, Em nods to his nurse. “Appreciated.”
Thursday morning, 10 September 2015
GM: “Not good enough.” If Em’s voice has all the emotion of a tombstone, Det. Gettis’ is just as hard.
Emmett: Em tries to meet the taller man’s eyes. “Maybe not. But as you can see-” he flicks his head at the wreck he’s woken up in, “-my entire life’s not good enough at the moment. Yours can wait in line.”
GM: “…and he’s right in here,” Em hears a woman’s voice declaring. A nurse opens the door to his room, and Caveat slinks in, followed by the grimebag lawyer he’s tethered to. Villars wears a similar dark suit and striped necktie to the one Em last saw him in, and the same dark glasses. He bares his teeth 90 degrees to the right of Em’s location in what passes for a smile.
“You tell me now, whoever’s sitting in that bed, are you my client?”
Gettis’ knuckles tighten.
Emmett: “I am indeed.” Em’s smile is every bit as brittle as the casts that imprison him.
GM: Villars thanks the nurse for showing him the way with another ugly leer and then remarks, seemingly oblivious to Gettis’ presence, “So, first, there’s the matter of bills…”
Emmett: “Company, Bert.”
GM: “Is there now? I-”
Gettis cuts the lawyer off. “Last thing you remember, Delacroix.”
Emmett: “You, leaving.” He tilts his head. “Oh, wait, sorry. That’s what happens next. Maybe it’s one of those precognition things. Like on TV.”
GM: The detective rises from his seat, walks up to Em’s bed, and stares down at him.
Villars tilts his head. “Ah, now what’s this? Is my client under arrest, Officer?”
Gettis regards the grimebag lawyer with all the esteem he might hold for a glob of sputum on his shoe.
“He’s being detained under reasonable suspicion.”
“Ah, I see,” Villars replies thoughtfully. “Well, it’s a good thing he has his lawyer present for all the twenty minutes you can be here. Emmett, now, the good detective is trying to do his job. What is the last thing you… do remember?”
Emmett: Em nods. Swallows tremulously.
“I… I was having a drink. In Marigny.” He scrunches up his brow. “I’m sorry, it’s all hazy. Either the Vortex or the Carnival Club. Someplace with lots of music, flashing lights. I was drinking something. I don’t remember ordering, but I was definitely drinking, and I remember talking to somebody. A girl. She said her name was Courtney.”
GM: Det. Gettis walks directly in front of Emmett’s bed and plants his callused hands on either side of the railing. Bert Villars is literally eclipsed by the man’s looming presence. His gaunt, scarred face is all-too close. His gaze all-too intense. Pitiless iron-gray eyes bore into Em’s with all the hardness of railroad spikes.
Emmett: Em wants so badly to stare back. He wants to laugh in the pig’s face, and pull out another one-liner; he wants to make him fume and spit and tear his hair out. He wants to feel like himself again.
But he isn’t.
He remembers what happened to the last NOPD detective he defied. He breaks under Gettis’s gaze like ice underfoot.
“It… it wasn’t my fault.”
The world’s gone blurry.
GM: Villars frowns slightly at Em’s change in tone, but remains literally blind to the goings-on. “Now, Emmett…” he starts.
Emmett: “It was… Mouton. I had a deal with him, and I shorted him. Just a hundred bucks. I, I was drunk. I threw up on him.” There are skates more steady than the manic laugh. “He didn’t like that. Not at all.”
GM: Emmett might as well be talking to a brick wall for all the reaction that Gettis’ hard-jawed face evinces. Villars moves to intercede, telling Emmett to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights, that he doesn’t have—but the change in tactics comes too late. Gettis ignores the lawyer utterly as he stares at Emmett… and something within the crippled young man just breaks.
It all comes tumbling out. The now so-very aborted plan to defraud al-Saud of his millions. Going to Cash Money to find out what NOPD had on him. Taunting the soon-enraged corrupt cop. The one-sided brawl. The… Em regales what parts came next that his mind hasn’t scabbed over like still-purple scar tissue. The conversation with Courtney. The woman whose shoes clicked against stone. Waking up in the dumpster. All of it.
Emmett: The good news is he sounds like a madman. Too insane to be taken seriously.
The bad news is he sounds like a madman, and he takes himself seriously.
GM: Gettis produces a pair of handcuffs, snaps one cuff around Em’s broken, cast-encased wrist, and snaps the other cuff to his bed.
“You’re under arrest.”
“On what charges, Officer?” Villars scoffs.
“Good question. Lot here,” Gettis answers.
Emmett: Em frowns, his wrist limp. “Bert. Is that legal?” His tone is more deadpan curiosity than interested.
GM: Villars might roll his eyes. “I can’t stop him from making an arrest, only challenge its legality in court. And if you’re expecting the NOPD to care about legality next to everything you just blabbed, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Now shut your mouth and don’t think about any words except ‘Fifth Amendment’ before you make things even worse.”
“Assaulting a public officer,” Gettis muses about the cause for Em’s arrest, seemingly half to himself.
Emmett: “Okay.” Em flicks the tears from his cheeks. “Bert?”
GM: Villars looks at him disgustedly. “That isn’t anywhere close to ‘Fifth’ or ‘Amendment’.”
Emmett: “I have to take a shit. Call the nurse.”
GM: Gettis pulls out a card and dryly recites, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”
Villars looks between the two and heaves a sigh.
Emmett: “No, seriously. Call the nurse.”
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